THE COPYCAT EFFECT: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines

Loren L. Coleman, Author . Paraview $14 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7434-8223-3

According to Coleman, the media's attitude is "death sells... if it bleeds, it leads." The author, who has written and lectured extensively on the impact of media, mounts a convincing case against newspapers, TV and books that sensationalize murders and suicides, thus encouraging others to imitate destructive crimes. He traces the problem's roots to Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), which spotlighted a fellow who shot himself over a failed romance and inspired many young men to do the same. The novel encouraged widespread use of the term "the Werther Effect" when referring to copycat catastrophes. Coleman addresses Marilyn Monroe's 1962 death, pointing out that thanks to extensive coverage of the star's passing, "the suicide rate in the United States increased briefly by 12%." Other subjects include the 2002 Washington-area snipers John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, whose actions spawned numerous sniper killings; suicide clusters among fourth-century Greeks; cult leaders Charles Manson and David Koresh, who attained gruesome glamour through melodramatic press perusal; Jack the Ripper—who created copycat killers from the late 1800s into the 20th century—and today's suicide bombers. Although readers may feel there's little they can do to muzzle media destructiveness, Coleman presents his advice to with enough punch to intrigue the public and possibly exert a minor influence on the press. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/21/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4165-0554-9
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